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Image: Julia Levy, Lionsgate

American Gods season one hits Blu-ray this week! Hypable caught up with the stars at New York Comic Con to preview the collection and discuss season one’s reception.

In the middle of NYCC’s insanity, Hypable found a few moments to catch up with the stars of American Gods, Yetide Badaki (Bilquis), Pablo Schreiber (Mad Sweeney), and Ricky Whittle (Shadow Moon).

The first season of the series hits Blu-ray this week and is loaded with interviews, and behind-the-scenes looks at the village of people who work behind the camera. As well as commentary on the finale as the cast screens it for the first time.

As we at Hypable have noted, something special is happening with this production. It’s gripping, timely, and unlike anything we’ve experienced on television before. That feeling, it seems, is not isolated to the viewer or the critic.

It permeates all levels of the production. Badaki, Schreiber, and Whittle each spoke about the cast and crew of American Gods with the wonder and awe of those of us watching it from our living rooms.

At the launch party, Hypable asked the cast how they felt about the response to season 1, what to expect (and what is lacking) from the Blu-ray release, and to tease a bit about season 2.

On the critical and fan reception of ‘American Gods’ season 1

Ricky: It’s been fantastic. This is a book from 16 years ago. It won numerous awards in 2001. And so it became a great pressure to deliver an adaptation that lived up to that. It’s very rare that that happens and it’s done very well.

Even successful shows and films like Twilight and The Hunger Games received huge backlash. And we say that they’re successful. And fans hated it.

When [American Gods] came out, we knew we had the backing of Neil Gaiman. Which is very rare. Normally the authors have to hand the property over to the studio.

Neil Gaiman’s been a part of casting, episodes, writing, everything. And because of that it’s got his touch all over it. Add the genius of Bryan Fuller and Michael Green, we have an incredible show.

And the reception’s been incredible. It really has been so positive. We were never going to please everyone 100%, but I feel that we are well high into the 90s when it comes to percentiles.

Everything that is in the book is in the show. But then we are fleshing out stuff that they really enjoy. Everyone is loving the look, the tone, the feel, the casting.

The only complaint I’ve ever had is, why only eight episodes? It’s a good problem to have.

american gods trio
Photo credit: Julia Levy, Lionsgate

Pablo: I’m really pleased with the reception I’ve seen. It was really well received across the board by critics. If anything, for some fans, who [have not read] the book, it could be a little confusing. That was one thing I heard. But for the most part it seemed to be good and well received by people.

The reception of my character [Mad Sweeney] was kind of what I expected it would be. When I read the scripts I thought he was really fun and entertaining. And I think he’s a possibility for levity and getting to laugh a little bit in what could be a very dark and serious show.

I’ve really enjoyed being a part of it and getting to work with all of the people who are involved with this. It’s such a dream. Top to bottom the cast is spectacular, the top-line writing talent is exactly what you want for creating a new show.

And at this point I only want to work with showrunners who are that talented.

After having worked with Jenji Kohan and David Simon, I’ve gotten to be a part of two classic series, The Wire and Orange is the New Black, I’m really looking for great partners for creating great TV.

Michael and Bryan are about as classy as you can get in that regard.

Yetide: There has been so much of a positive outpouring for this show. I’m a big Neil Gaiman fan, for the longest time. I have read the books since 2001. And all the fans that have been waiting for [American Gods], we have been waiting for it to be done, but there is also that fan side where, you say, “well, if it’s done well.”

That’s the caveat.

These fans, who have been waiting so long for this to come, are reaching out and saying, ‘Thank you for doing it well. Thank you for doing it justice. And thank you for doing it with the passion that you do.’

Specifically with Bilquis, I have at times been overwhelmed with the emotionally response. Just the other night this woman came up to me and said, ‘Thank you, I saw myself in her. I saw you and I saw me in ways that I thought I would never get to see myself as a dark-skinned woman on TV.’

It has been incredibly fulfilling to see all the positive, warm response. And, you know, as a fellow geek, I get it.

On fleshing out their characters in season 1

Ricky (on the pressure of deviating from the book for Shadow Moon): I feel more pressure than anyone else. Mad Sweeney, Laura, Bilquis, Tech Boy, these characters don’t feature very prominently in the book. Bryan and Michael are really able to write freely for them.

Whereas [for] Shadow, it’s his journey at the end of the day. It’s Shadow’s book. And he says some very entrenched lines that I am not allowed to change.

american gods party
Photo credit: Julia Levy, Lionsgate

The beautiful thing about Neil Gaiman’s writing is that the written word is so beautiful. Sometimes when you have to say it out loud it doesn’t quite sound the same. When it’s written down and you read it in your head it is so beautiful.

I do feel pressure that sometimes. I have to stick to the book more than anyone else because the fans want me to say that line as they know that line.

But at the same time, we are not doing the book and we have to make it real. Fortunately, I got a long leash from Michael and Bryan, And if Neil Gaiman is happy, the fans have to be happy.

Pablo: There’s a pressure for me in the sense that people have responded to [Mad Sweeney] really well and I want to give the fans the same enjoyment they had from the character in the first season.

I just want to do justice to what we established in the first season.

Yetide: It’s been an absolute joy. I think it was Neil who was saying, it felt like the book had been this house. [One] that we had walked through and seen certain open doors, and gone into and seen those bits of story that were behind those open doors.

And now with the show, we get to open some of those closed doors that were in that hallway. That’s exactly what it feels like.

It’s been wonderful that even though you’ve read the book, you’re still left guessing. There are different twists and turns that are not on the page, while still feeling true to the source material. Which is a very, very hard line to walk.

But we have the best people who are doing that, who are writing the fan fiction, Bryan and Michael.

It’s been a joy as someone who is also a fan. Getting new material that feels like, ‘Oh man, I’ve got a whole new book.’ It’s really exciting to go on that journey and discover things going on with everyone else.

Blu-ray release teasers

Ricky: I should [know something], I was in them. I remember we watched the season finale. Myself, Orlando Jones, Yetide Badaki, Emily Browning, Bruce Langley, it was our first reaction to the finale. We had never seen it. We literally watched it as fans and lost our minds.

The only thing I think [it] is missing, that I wish was on there, is bloopers. I believe they are going to be released sooner or later. If not, I’m going to release bloopers because I’ve always got backstage material.

So check out my social media because I’m releasing everything!

Yetide: [The cast] got to chat a little bit about our experiences filming and maybe one or two things that people may not be aware about in the journey may come up. There is also one thing, that I am very happy about.

Everyone has seen and heard everything in front of the camera, but there’s a whole village of people behind the camera.

american gods yetide
Photo credit: Julia Levy, Lionsgate

Dedicated, passionate, intelligent, and talented individuals. People like Colin Penman on makeup or Karola [Dirnberger] and Rhosael [Ciandreon] hair, or Suttirat Anne Larlarb who does all of our costumes. And that’s only a fraction of all these individuals who put forth this incredible effort to make everything look awesome on the screen.

We get to learn a little bit more about them. And I personally find that very exciting because they’re a part of this tapestry.

’American Gods’ season 2 teasers

Ricky: I heard Shadow can fly, he’s a superhero. I think he becomes the Green Lantern. Or we might stick to the book.

Shadow was very passive in the first season, things kind of happened to him. He was a leaf in the stream. Season 2, he’s going to be proactive. Now, he’s been awoken to this world. He can believe. And he’s going to start asking more questions. He’s going to start challenging the gods. He’s going to take control of his own life.

And we’re going to see these journeys from all of the characters. We’ve introduced you to all of them. Now you’re going to see them interact and have their own agendas.

Pablo: I want to see where all the things that were set up in the first season land. Sweeney, in particular, is stuck between Mr. Wednesday and Laura now. And he’s got to play both sides. It will be interesting to see who he sides with and how that dynamic eventually plays out.

Also, House on the Rock, I’m really excited to get to that experience.

Yetide: I can always talk about hopes. I can talk about hopes all day. I’m just excited that we have a second season. As we know in the industry right now it’s not alway guaranteed. For us to have found out after our second episode that we had another season, that was an incredible gift.

I’m excited to see more Bilquis, I’m excited to learn and dive a little bit deeper into that rabbit hole.

But I’m also excited about several characters that we have not met yet. I look forward to meeting Sam. And I just know with this team we are going to have an incredible time.

Relive season 1 with our American Gods coverage!

American Gods season 1 comes to Blu-ray on October 17. Pre-order here.

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